Scripture Text: John 16:8-11
Sermon Prepared by Rev. John Kerssies, retired, Stayner, Ontario
Dear Congregation in Jesus Christ,
You don’t have to be in an actual courtroom to find out what is going on in courtrooms. All you need to do is turn on your television and there you can find real courtroom TV with programs like Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, and a host of others. Or if you want some courtroom dramas, perhaps you can watch some old Perry Mason or Matlock shows or some contemporary shows such as Law and Order.
The various parties present in these TV show presentations are much like the ones you will find in real civic courtrooms. Behind or on the bench sits a black-robed character called the judge. In front of the judge is seated the accused flanked by his defence lawyer or lawyers and on the other side you will see the prosecutor who acts on behalf of the civil authority in case of a criminal offense or a plaintiff who represents himself in civil law cases. In trials by jury you will find flanked along one side of the courtroom a few rows of jurors usually randomly selected from the general population by the prosecutor and the defence lawyer.
The Judge we like to introduce today is not an ordinary human judge. He is the Judge; in fact he is the Judge of all of the earth. Abraham in his prayer to this Judge on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (he really prayed for his nephew Lot and his family) asked the rhetorical question, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Indeed, the Judge of all the earth will always do what is right. After all, he is the Lord God and this God never makes any mistakes.
Before this almighty Judge stands the accused—all humanity from all nations and peoples. Not a single person is excluded in this all-encompassing trial. All of humanity includes you and me as well. That final judgment scene has not yet taken place. It will take place at the end of time. This is how Revelation 20:11-15 describes it:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Now before that final white throne judgement takes place, there is what in the United States justice system is called a grand jury trial. Here the question is asked, “Is there enough evidence for the actual trial to be executed?” It is here that the Holy Spirit plays a significant role. This is how Jesus introduces the function of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11:
“When he (the Counsellor or Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.“ (NIV).
We need to note that the word “guilt” in the original is really the same word as the word for “sin.” So the Holy Spirit comes and renders a triple conviction, a conviction of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
First of all, the Holy Spirit will come and convict this world of sin. The word “sin” conjures up a picture of an archer aiming at the bull’s eye and then missing it by a mile. Sin in its fundamental meaning is really missing the mark. God says to us, “Be holy because I am holy,” and we say to the Lord, “Go, fly a kite. We will do our own thing, thank you very much. We will determine our own course of action.”
After a while of acting this way--in total disregard of the Lord’s will for us to be holy--sin becomes our condition for living. We become quite comfortable with our situation. And soon this condition in turn becomes a life of sin. We begin to relish in it. And from there it all goes downhill. We become slaves of sin and we are steeped in sin and we walk in sin until sin has an ugly powerful grip on us from which we are unable to escape in our own power.
The Holy Spirit will come, says Jesus, and he will convict and persuade the world of its sinful condition, of this life of sin that holds it in its ugly grip and will continue to hold it in its grip. And the reason is this “Because men do not believe in me,” that is, do not believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit has come with the Gospel message into this sin-infested and sin-enslaved world. The cardinal message of the gospel is a simple one: salvation for this sin-enslaved world and its inhabitants is in Jesus Christ alone. And what is the world’s response? Hardened hearts!
It reminds us what we read in the opening verses of John’s gospel.
“He (Jesus, the Word) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Or listen to the famous words John penned in chapter 3:16 and following:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. … Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
It is clear that by the word “world” is understood the sinfully infested world that stands in opposition to the Kingdom of the Lord. It is the world system that has no use for Jesus and no use for the message of salvation; in fact, it opposes the regime of Christ the Lord.
You see, at the very center of human history stands the cross of Jesus. And now all of humanity stands as it were at the crossroads. We all have two choices and two choices only, either to accept and receive Jesus as Savior and bow before him as Lord or to despise and reject him. The choice is to bless him or to curse him, to follow him or to crucify him anew. When the apostle Paul writes about his own ministry, he says this in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16:
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”
You see the Gospel message cuts like a knife through humanity. It cuts like the knife of a butcher or it cuts like the knife of a surgeon. One will kill, the other will destroy.
Secondly, says Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicts this world of righteousness. The question of “righteousness” has to do with who was and is right and who is the Righteous One. Were the Jewish leaders right when they accused Jesus of blasphemy that eventually led to his death sentence? Were Pontius Pilate and the Romans right when they listened to the accusatory remarks of the crowds and subsequently crucified Jesus on Calvary’s hill? Are those people right who even today accuse Jesus of being a charlatan or a deceiver or a well-meaning con-artist?
Are those people right who will acknowledge that Jesus was an excellent and well-spoken teacher and who even probably performed some outstanding miracles and did many good things and even perhaps became the leader of a great and respected religion, but nothing more? Are those people right who claim that Jesus was an upstanding moral character whose character we ought to imitate as much as possible, but who could not possibly be the Savior, let alone and Lord of the world before whom all knees should bow? Well, what is the judgment of the Holy Spirit?
Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will convict this world of righteousness, that is, the Holy Spirit will ultimately reveal to the world who is right and who is God’s Righteous One. The Spirit will convict the world that Jesus is right and is the righteousness come from God. And how do we know this? Says Jesus, “Because I (Jesus) am going to the Father.” The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead and that he ascended into heaven was proof of the fact that God accepted his Son and the work of his Son as perfect and complete. This is how Peter summarized it in his Pentecostal message in Acts 2:33: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” And in this way the Holy Spirit convicts this world of the righteousness of Jesus!
Finally, there is still a third conviction. The Spirit will also convict the world of judgment. The world, the sin-infested and sin-corrupted world will be convicted of judgment. Eternal doom hangs over the head of a humanity that has turned its back on the salvation offered in the Gospel. There is no escape possible for anyone who dares to persist in stubborn unbelief. Hell is the only future reality reserved for it. People today are not very enamoured when they hear about hell. After all, is God not gracious and loving enough to open heaven for all people? Is hell not a remnant of an ancient and medieval imagination?
Perhaps we all like to have it that way. However, the Bible is very clear that anyone who rejects the Gospel message and rebels against God’s anointed Messiah is headed for the eternal place of judgment. Listen to how Jesus describes the reality of hell:
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48)
Jesus offers a “because” statement, saying, “Because the prince of this world (who is Satan himself) now stands condemned.” Satan has already been defeated at the cross and at the open grave. When Jesus was crucified Satan thought he had victory in his pocket, only to realize that his victory was only a pyrrhic victory. And when Jesus arose from the dead, Satan’s fate was completely sealed. He became powerless and bound. In Luke 10:18 Jesus said that he saw “Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” And in John 12:31 Jesus commented “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” The strong man has been bound and as Paul puts it in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under his feet.” Someone once remarked that Satan today is like a chicken with the head cut off. To be sure, he still makes his presence known. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:8, ``Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. `` Yes, he prowls and he sometimes roars like a lion, but like a beheaded chicken his time is all but over. His days are coming to an end.
Satan’s final fate will even be more severe. Listen to Revelation 20:10:
“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
On the great day of Pentecost Jesus sent the Comforter, the One who stands alongside of us, the Holy Spirit. When he entered the world he drew, as it were, a demarcation line through this world’s humanity. You see, now no one can remain neutral. You now must choose. You either receive Jesus as Savior and Lord or you turn your back on him. You can decide to follow him or you choose the enemy of Jesus. There are only two roads, the broad way and the narrow way.
And when you choose to follow Jesus, you cannot but acknowledge and confess him as Lord and King. He is not a deluded and fake con artist or a misguided idiot. He is in fact the Victor over the powers of Satan and he is the final Judge over the living and the dead. The Holy Spirit has come. A demarcation line, a line of division has been drawn. The antithesis has been declared. After Pentecost everyone needs to make a decision. On which side of the demarcation line do you find yourself? The answer to this question may well decide your eternal destiny. Do you say with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will the Lord?” I pray you will. Amen.
Order of Worship
GOD GATHERS US FOR WORSHIP
Words of Welcome and Announcements
Call to Worship: Psalm 29:1-2
Moment of Silence ending with “Spirit of the Living God” PsH # 424
The Lord’s Greeting
Grace, mercy and peace to us from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Songs of Praise:
“Come, Thou Almighty King” PsH 246
“The Spirit Came as Promised” PsH # 418
GOD RENEWS US IN HIS GRACE
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 32:1-5
God’s Guide for Grateful Living
Responsive Reading of the Law, PsH page 1014
Song of Response: “And Can It Be” PsH # 267
GOD SPEAKS TO US IN HIS WORD
Scripture Reading: John 16:5-16
Scripture Text: John 16:8-11
Sermon: The Spirit’s Triple Conviction
Prayer of Application
Lord, you have spoken to us in your Holy Word. We now pray that we may live out of that Word and live in such a way that we honor you through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Song of Response: “Spirit of God, Who Dwells within My Heart” PsH # 419
WE RESPOND IN PRAYER AND OFFERINGS
Song of Response: “Take My Life and Let It Be” PsH # 288
GOD SENDS US OUT TO LOVE AND SERVE
God’s Parting Blessing
The Lord bless us and keep us; the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us; the Lord turn his face toward us and give us peace. Amen.
Closing Song: “Go Now in Peace” PsH # 317